Editor’s Note: We're searching for the best and brightest admin professionals and workplace operators in the US. Know an outstanding Ninja? Nominations for the 2020 All-Star Awards are now open!
Today’s OfficeNinjas All-Star Award is presented by Bevi! Reinvent your water cooler culture with a hydration solution.
Name: Kellie Edwards
Title & Company: Executive Assistant II, CHG Healthcare
Location: Midvale, UT
# Years as an Office Ninja: 15
Recommends: Pushing the envelope and crushing boundaries
Fun Fact: Kellie is a twin!
We don’t use the term “visionary” lightly, so you better believe it when we say that Kellie Edwards is a visionary among Office Ninjas! Kellie has not only changed, expanded, and elevated the role of Office Ninja for herself, but she’s also done the same for the other 25 executive assistants at her company.
Not long after being hired by CHG Healthcare, Kellie co-founded an annual summit for all of the organization’s EAs (many of whom had never met face-to-face) so that they could share information, learn new skills, and feel connected and supported.
Kellie leads by example. She is the epitome of a great friend, mentor, leader, co-worker. She sends out best practices and shares them daily; she’s always looking out for where she can help and lend a hand, and she shares her expertise like teaching a monthly class on knowledge-based skills pertinent to our role here—empathic listening, paradigm exercises, reactive language vs. proactive, just to name a few.
Kellie also played an instrumental role in founding CHG Healthcare’s Employee Engagement Group specifically for Administrative Professionals, an idea that was brought to her by one of the group of individuals she mentors.
Kellie has also served as a powerful mentor and friend to other administrative professionals … she founded an Employee Engagement Group with another admin on my own team to gather support and best practices groups across the company, in multiple states and with people across the spectrum of administrative positions. Kellie simply rises above and beyond the expectations of her own role and uplifts all of those lucky enough to be around her. She is the ultimate Office Ninja!
And, in addition to being a leader and innovator, she somehow finds the time to be a kick-ass EA! Her co-workers marvel at her organizational skills, attention to detail, and ability to roll with the punches.
Kellie is the David Copperfield of administrative leaders as she dazzles and wows us all with her efficiency and multitasking wizardry. She’s always smiling as she juggles everything into its rightful place.
How does she successfully juggle so many responsibilities and STILL have the energy to seek out new projects? Let’s find out! Enjoy this Q&A with Kellie Edwards, OfficeNinjas All-Star!
ON: What’s your favorite part of being an Office Ninja?
KE: Supporting a team that I value that values me right back. I also love being organized! If you present me with a mess—electronic, physical, figurative, what-have-you—and you ask me to help, I will sort and organize until it’s something that makes sense. I find that entire process to be thrilling and productive.
ON: What tricks do you have for when you’re stressed or upset at work?
KE: I’m a planner, so I do my best to apply risk management wherever applicable. I like to map out “if x goes wrong, do this; if y goes wrong, do this.” By having alternatives brainstormed, I feel better prepared and can easily adapt to change.
To be honest, I don’t believe anyone at work is able to tell if I am stressed or upset. I try very hard to keep an even keel while at the office. This is not to say that I don’t show emotions. But stress and anger are not ones I choose to display openly. Partly because I work hard at earning the trust of my executives, leaders, and peers. They know I can handle any level of confidential information and any level of task difficulty. By remaining cool in chaotic situations, I’ve proven to them I can be depended on when the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan.
ON: What’s the one thing that’s always on your desk?
KE: Can I cheat here? I’m going to. I always have three items on my desk:
1. The first, most critical item is my journal writing pad and colored pens. I take a pad and pen with me to meetings, sit-downs, everywhere. I find that I retain information best by writing it down. Something about the process of writing with bright colors etches the information onto my memory better than typing on my laptop does. (Don’t get me wrong, my laptop goes everywhere with me too).
2. The second item is a canister filled with blank cards—thank you cards, birthday cards, etc. My co-workers can stop by anytime they need to give someone else a note of acknowledgement. I hand them out regularly as well. There’s something special about making others smile, and who doesn’t love the feeling of receiving a personalized note of thanks or congratulations?
3. The third item is a printout of my personality assessment results for Myers-Briggs (I’m an INTJ), Culture Works’ “What Motivates Me” (my motivators are Service, Learning, and Problem-Solving), and Strengthsfinder 2.0 (my strengths are Learner, Individualization, Relator). The team I support has taken all three of these assessments, and we share them at our desks so that others can see who we are and how we work. I use them as a reminder to help me focus on the big picture and my goals.
ON: Where does your drive come from? What keeps you motivated?
KE: My drive comes from my innate desire to problem solve, continuously improve, make people happy, and be efficient. I don’t believe in boundaries, and I encourage others not to as well.
Any boundaries that do exist are likely because of phrases such as “that is how it’s always been done.” As soon as I sense this, I can’t help but ask questions like “Is that right?” “Does it bring value?” and “What are we not thinking of?” Approaching life and work through new eyes either validates the current state or brings to light opportunities. To me, nothing is impossible.
My motivation comes from this little voice that is always encouraging me to do better and be happy. The voice itself is my own, but it comes from wanting to make my family and my executive proud. I grew up with my father telling me that I could be anything, do anything. My twin sister and I have always been each other’s biggest fans, and we support each other’s dreams and goals. My husband pushes me to try new things and encourages me to love who I am. My children are my world, so I’ve made a promise to myself that if I am going to be away from them (i.e., at work), then I better be doing something that makes me happy.
ON: How do your co-workers help you succeed?
KE: My executive, Leslie Snavely, Sr. VP of Marketing at CHG Healthcare, is my #1 cheerleader, and I am hers. If we weren’t in this together, then I wouldn’t remain in this field of work. She took it upon herself to learn my strengths and weaknesses, and she works with me regularly on these. She knows I am motivated by process improvements and learning, and she includes me in opportunities that allow me to exercise both.
The senior leadership team in the marketing department includes me as a team member. For example, we meet monthly for three hours. At this session, I provide administrative support (taking notes, tracking action items, scheduling follow-up meetings), but I also contribute my opinions and feedback during discussions. At the department’s monthly People Leadership Development and Training meetings, I participate as a member (I don’t even take notes!).
My peers, the fellow executive assistants at CHG, and those from my previous employers indulge in my networking efforts of surveys, trivia games, lunches, and other activities.
I guess what I am trying to say is I am supported by my team because they let me be me; they treat me as a valuable asset, and they allow me to grow and develop along with them.
ON: What is your greatest professional achievement?
KE: You’re joking, right? It’s this award! I’ve never had public recognition, so to find out that multiple people nominated me for this means the world to me.
ON: How do you see the admin profession evolving? What do you do to stay ahead of the curve?
KE: Those in this field are living in an exciting time right now. Companies are not only open to the expanding roles of administrative professionals, but they also acknowledge the many benefits that come with it.
Admin professionals wear many hats. We are a glue that holds work and teams together. If given the opportunity, we take the ordinary and produce extraordinary (ON HQ may have to steal this line!). We aren’t just scheduling meetings and owning calendars. We are an extension of the executive we support, the team we support, or the team we lead. We are strategy thinkers, project owners, budget trackers, task completers, and we keep you accountable.
I stay ahead of the curve by thinking big. I am committed to proving to the corporate world that an administrative professional’s office (“APO”—yes, I have named my vision) is not only a successful approach to aligning functions, but it gives a company two teams in one—we support each other, and we support the company’s departments.
ON: What are you most proud of outside of work?
KE: My family, hands down. I’ve been with my husband for almost 15 years, and we are raising our amazing daughter and son together. The three of them are my moon and stars, and I love them more than anything.
ON: How do you balance work and personal life?
KE: This particular concept is very important to me. I am always striving to balance this effectively by allocating my time as efficiently as possible to each category. I am fortunate enough to work for a company that encourages work-life balance and provides me the outlets to do so. If my daughter has a school activity or my son has a doctor appointment in the middle of a work day, there is full support if I leave work early to be there for them. We have an on-site cafeteria and gym, which allows me to quickly grab a meal if I want to work through lunch or get a quick workout in without having to commute elsewhere.
When I am at work, I am organized, keep a full schedule, and adapt as new items arise. When I am at home, I am laid back and mostly focused on art projects with the kids, walks with our dog, and quality cuddle time on the couch with my husband. Working full time, then coming home and being mom until the kids go to sleep leaves little time to focus on myself. I normally don’t mind, because I love what I do in both roles. Every now and then my husband will remind me to go do something just for me. He’s a smart man.
ON: What are the top three traits of an OfficeNinjas All-Star?
KE: Being highly organized and detail-oriented, being able to think outside the box and approach things from new perspectives, and sincerely caring about your team and the work you provide.
ON: What’s one thing you’ve done that’s been the most impactful in advancing your career?
KE: At a previous employer, I prepared and submitted a proposal to my leader, the CEO, who promoted me to manager and created the company’s first administrative team. The workload had increased enough that it was too much for one person. I took the time to assess the work, the timing of each task the company needed from an administrative role, the quality of work and expertise required, and the future needs to support strategic items. Then, I provided suggestions for what this team would look like and how the work should be executed.
The analytics alone could have been the reason my leader said yes, but I believe it was because of my drive in owning my career growth and the reputation I earned through my hard work. I am not going to lie, I was nervous to take such a bold approach and afraid of possible rejection. But I didn’t let that stop me. I knew it was right for the company and for me.
ON: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
KE: The first executive I ever teamed up with would tell me, “If you are not uncomfortable, you are not learning.” It means that going after change and opportunity, or going outside of your comfort zone, can be scary, but if you pursue it anyway, then you’ll come out knowing more.
ON: Office Ninjas often have tips and tricks of the trade. Any you care to share?
KE: Oh boy! OK, here are my top seven. (I wanted to stop at five, but I can’t!)
1. Never stop learning.
2. Push the envelope. Just because “that’s how it’s always been done” doesn’t mean it’s right, and just because “we’ve never done that before” doesn’t mean it’s not going to work.
3. Approach every experience as an opportunity to learn. A more tactical approach to this is always take notes. Write it down, then look at it a week, a month, a year later.
4. Be proactive and think ahead. You create value to your employer and team if you consistently identify gaps and help fill those voids with actual solutions.
5. Network! Get to know the people in your field of work. Join some organizations related to your industry, and start connecting with other members. There is so much we have to teach each other and encouragement to provide. You won’t be disappointed.
6. Use effective time management in your work calendar. Utilize categories and color-coding, and put your work (not just meetings) into your calendar. It is an easy way to prioritize your daily work as well as provide summaries with your leader of where your focus has been.
7. Last, but certainly not the end of my tricks, if you feel a pain point in your work, assess its impact—on you, your leader, your team, your company. Ask yourself: “Is this task urgent? Is this task important? Can it be delegated? Can it be streamlined?” I promise you, if you find yourself thinking, “There has got to be a better way to do this,” THERE IS! Ask your team, search Google, apply LEAN concepts … do something instead of waiting for someone else to solve it for you.
ON: You also founded an Employee Engagement Group that supports groups across the company in multiple states. How have you managed connecting staff all over the country?
KE: An administrative assistant that I mentor approached me one day with the idea to start an Employee Network Group (ENG) for administrative professionals. We worked together on outlining what our mission would be and submitted the application. When it was approved, the smile on her face was priceless!
She and I lead a monthly team session, designate agenda topics for the year, and assign a training category to each team member. This lets everyone in the group participate as a lead at some point in time and encourage contribution from everyone. Bay and I agree that these amazing women who joined should share the responsibility of running the group.
Our objective is to network, learn from each other, share stories, ask questions, and sometimes just acknowledge each other and the work we do.
ON: Tell us about the process of starting an internal blog for CHG’s Marketing team.
KE: I am so stinking excited for this tool. My leader approached me with the idea and asked me if I’d be interested in heading it. The blog’s objectives are to consolidate the amount of information pushed out via emails, break down silos that exist between our teams, and increase visibility of our work in a fun and informative manner.
To kick off this effort, I met with our communications and web development teams. Next, I held a naming contest for the blog’s site. What I wanted was for people to connect “marketing blog” and “I can contribute to this” right off the bat. There were over 50 names submitted!
I asked for volunteers to be regular content contributors. The team consists of ten amazing people from various backgrounds. At our kick-off meeting, we discussed roles and responsibilities, brainstormed content topics, then assigned owners to each topic. We feature topics such as work anniversaries, new hires, team events, senior leadership features, business and industry updates, and more!
I get to be managing editor, which allows me to create and oversee the publication schedule and support the team as they compile content. We meet monthly to assess the schedule and make changes as needed. We are planning to go live in May. The really exceptional part is that, even though there is a team, anyone in our department can contribute if they want to.
ON: You co-chaired an Executive Assistant Summit for CHG. What was the event like, and how did you bring so many EAs together from across the organization?
KE: This is my work baby! When I came onboard at CHG, I had just left an amazing company where I was the leader of four administrative professionals. I moved to Utah to be near my husband’s family, and when we got here I googled “amazing companies to work for in Utah.” (Not joking.) CHG was one of the results, and I stalked their careers page until an opening for an Executive Assistant came up. I knew I wanted to work at a great company, so I didn’t feel I needed to be a people leader immediately; I wanted the right company (I could create the right job later).
I was pleasantly surprised to find that CHG employs over 25 different executive assistants. I couldn’t wait to see what groups or sessions I could get involved with. To my surprise, I learned that nothing like this existed. I started emailing out surveys and trivia games to the other EAs so we could get to know each other. For those in my area, I’d invite them all to a monthly lunch outing. Two other EAs and I started discussing a lunch-and-learn event, but the CEO actually suggested we take it further and plan a team summit!
The three of us rallied together for months, preparing the attendee list, agenda, swag, fun dinners, presentations, you name it. The result was beyond anything we could have imagined. It was outstanding being able to see each other in-person (out-of-state employees flew in to HQ), learning together and sharing experiences with each other. It created an entirely new level of how we work together. We found that we all had the same passions for our field of work and the same hunger for growth and development. We left feeling like a successful team. I am happy to report that this is now an annual summit, and each year a new team of EAs gets to host the event.
ON: What is it like to mentor four employees?
KE: The experience has been a true honor. Each experience has been vastly different from the others, with ups and downs and ups again. My biggest takeaway is that I have as much to learn from the people I mentor as they have to learn from me. I approach each of them with a partnership in mind. While some of their needs have been based on skill development, I find that all are seeking guidance and support regarding their careers and the direction they’re heading.
Sharing my own experiences and insights with them has been humbling. Seeing one mentee in particular flourish, not because of my training, but because of my coaching and supporting her as a peer, has been a true pleasure. She is driven, motivated, and hard working. She just needed someone to relate to, someone in her own field who understands the work and can give her just enough advice so that she is confident enough to execute her plans on her own. I believe she and I will remain peers and friends for many years to come.
Kellie, any Ninja would be lucky to have you as a mentor!
As part of her prize package, Kellie will receive a $1,000 SpaFinder gift card, courtesy of Bevi!
View the complete photo album from our photo shoot at CHG Healthcare with Kellie.
All on-site photography of our featured Ninja and her workplace is courtesy of Oh Snap! Visuals. Oh Snap! is OfficeNinjas’ go-to photography company for headshots and events. They travel nationally, produce stunning photographs, and are a dream to work with!
Today’s All-Star is brought to you by Bevi:
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